Southport Harbor Safety Drill ensures smooth sailing
The annual Southport Harbor Safety Drill, hosted by Pequot Yacht Club, enacted numerous mock emergency scenarios last Thursday, in an effort to have all units of 911 responders onboard, trained and ready for action.
Marking its 7th annual drill, the Pequot Yacht Club Emergency Action Plan 2019 was set into motion as multiagency 911 responders from neighboring towns participated in the vital drill as the summer solstice kicked off the season.
Members of the United States Coast Guard, Fairfield and Westport Marine Police, Fairfield Fire Department, Fairfield Fire Department Marine, American Medical Response (AMR), Gowrie Group Insurance, US Sailing, Southport Harbor Management Commission, the Southport Harbormaster, Pequot Yacht Club and its Junior Sailing instructors participated in the drill under foggy conditions.
“The primary goal of this is to have communication between the club, first responders, and the Coast Guard,” said Jeff Engboard, yacht club general manager. “A big part of this drill is improvisation when emergencies come up and still do your job correctly. Anyone who would be activated by a 911 call were invited today, it gets us all to know one another and gives us a dry run on communications from start to finish.”
Ten buoys, placed at different locations in the waters, served as simultaneous people in distress/injured/weather related emergencies. One by one, emergency procedures were immediately set into action with simulated 911 distress calls after a pre-drill briefing. Responders and instructors performed search and rescues, located the buoys, secured the area, administered first aid, mobilized the victim to Ye Yacht Yard “at speed” where additional appropriate responders engaged and transported the survivors via waiting ambulance to the hospital. Drills were thoroughly run from start to finish of simulated water emergencies.
Professional responders added valuable insight and information throughout the drills. “You are the captain of the vessel, you are the person in charge of that vessel so you have the authority and the responsibility for the safety of all passengers and also for the victim that’s in the water,” said George Gomola, Assistant Fairfield Fire Chief. “You need to raise your game to fit the title. The bar is high for this exercise based on the history of those who have gone before you, not because of the outcome, but because of the spirit of cooperation that exists here and the communication and the fact that we are all here to provide a learning experience that’s going to ensure smooth operations when we get the real incident.”
Objectives included practicing distress communication skills in chaotic situations, Junior Instructors gaining experience to the reporting and reacting to an emergency situation, pursuit of safety excellence, response procedures and practices in a real world situations of escalating severity, improvement upon communication skills between agencies, introduction of local 911 responders and organizations to one another, and noted areas where improvement will be implemented and incorporated as standard procedure, in an effort to create a safe harbor.
“Stay calm, make sure you reach out and talk to the first responders, don’t worry if you make a mistake, we all make mistakes, this is a drill, we don’t want anybody hurt today,” added Engboard.
“We are serving many young people who will be out there on the water, the class of kids are who we are protecting and who’s safety we are concerned about,” said member Hugh Smith, former Harbormaster.
“Our goal is to get everybody including first responders and instructors at the club on the same page, so if there is an emergency, people will know where to go and what to do, how to react,” said Travis Herman, Pequot Yacht Club Marine Department Manager. “People are more comfortable after they’ve practiced what to do.” The event is held prior to the opening of the Junior Sailing season at the yacht club, and ended successfully culminating with an informative debrief.